When I saw the theme of this week's In A Yellow House photo challenge (sponsored this month by the amazing Ashley Sisk), there was only one photo that came to mind.
Last June, when my sister and I were taking a road trip from our hometown in Ohio to my current home in Georgia, I snapped up a very cool image from inside one of the tunnels in Virginia. The image captured the motion of driving in the tunnel perfectly, and in the distance, the light from the other side spilled into the middle of the image. It was such a neat photo, I used it in my first gallery show at my digital photography certificate program graduation at the College of Coastal Georgia the following March.
Fast forward a month later, and my mom's fiance, Bob, was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a very difficult time for all of us, as we loved Bob very much. In May, I flew up to Ohio to visit with Bob for a long weekend, right after the partial amputation of his right leg due to the cancer-caused blood clots. My first visit with Bob was difficult for me...seeing him in pain, having a hard time breathing, and with part of his leg missing. But I saw past all of that, held his hand, and was just glad to be there with him. I asked him how he was doing, and he said he just wished he could see a little light at the end of the tunnel, even just a pinhole light, so that he knew that things were going to get better. I immediately thought of the photo I took in the tunnel the previous June...
On my last day visiting with Bob, we came to find him in his room, sitting up on the side of his bed! Tears of joy streamed down his face, as he celebrated his first major goal after being sick for so long and after his amputation. It was an incredible site to see! After a while, he laid back in bed, and asked us to close the door after the nurses left. He told us his team of doctors had given up on him, were not going to try radiation to treat the cancer, and told him to find a hospice. It was devastating to think the one group of people who should have been encouraging him and supporting him the most simply gave up on him and left him to die. But my family didn't believe it. Bob was making great strides every day, was gaining weight and eating again and was a strong person in spirit. And so after reassuring him that we would be with him every step of his way to prove his doctors wrong, I presented him with a gift: a framed copy of the tunnel image with the words Never Give Up printed on the bottom. Little did I know when I was wrapping his gift earlier in the day that I would be bringing it to him on the day that he needed it most... It clearly meant a lot to him, and it meant a lot to me to give it to him.
Over the course of the next 2 months, Bob told me he stared at that picture every day and used it to give him strength...through his 6 weeks of radiation treatment (that the doctors agreed to give him), through his physical therapy in which he went above and beyond what anyone thought he could do, and through all those quiet moments when he was in his room alone. Visitors, doctors and nurses commented on it, and whenever Bob was moved to a different room or different hospital wing, that picture always went with him.
After the radiation treatments were over, Bob's body began giving him some trouble. His heart rate was high, his blood pressure was low, he had difficulty breathing, and he was feeling very tired. The doctors found fluid in his lung, drained it, and tested it to see if the cancer had spread. A brain scan was also taken to help the doctors figure out why Bob was having so much trouble. Despite his deterioration, Bob's spirit and sense of humor remained constant.
A day and a half later, Bob's blood pressure was extremely low. His doctors and nurses tried everything they could to bring it back up. I was told he closed his eyes and quietly passed away........
The lung fluid test later revealed the cancer had spread through his body. While Bob hadn't given up, his body was too weak to carry him any longer.
I didn't get to say goodbye, but I know he knew how much I loved him. While he didn't get the chance to officially become a member of our family, I will always consider him my Daddy-o, as I liked to call him. He was an amazingly selfless, caring, thoughtful, honest, honorable man, and I am so lucky to have had him in my life...even if just for a little while.
The framed picture of the tunnel sits on my desk in my home office. I look at it every day and think of Bob. It was almost a year exactly...from when I had originally taken this image to when Bob passed away.
I had the opportunity to drive through this tunnel a few weeks ago, and I thought of Bob. I don't think there will ever be a time when I won't think of him often...and with all the good that he brought into my life, I'm okay with that. He's a source of strength to me now, as I was for him, and I am forever grateful. Love and miss you, Daddy-o...always.
Never give up.